If innovation were easy, everyone would do it. Creating quality, machined plastic parts requires skill, knowledge, and determination. Without these, challenges can reveal themselves in your parts or applications. Sometimes machined plastic parts are engineered in a way that inadvertently creates inefficiencies. Other times a lack of material knowledge is to blame, or perhaps new materials have become available since the component was first designed. Maybe “it’s always been done this way,” so you accept the limitations. If you are facing challenges – whether experiencing field failures, looking for a way to remove costs and inefficiencies, or something else – engineering or high-performance thermoplastics may be the answer. At Ensinger PolyTech, we have the expertise and thermoplastic knowledge to take your idea to commercial maturity or to help you resolve current component challenges.
Material Selection and Application Support
Proper material selection is a critical step in product design. Before you start designing your product, your first decision is to determine which thermoplastic to use. Your material requirements may vary depending on the industry, the product’s environment, and the product’s intended life span.
To choose the right thermoplastic, you must evaluate the part, its environment, its application, and the manufacturing process. Some questions to consider include:
- What are the functional requirements of the part? Consider mechanical stress, durability, thermal stress, impact resistance, electrical requirements, and tribological stress.
- What are the environmental conditions the part will be exposed to? Assess factors like temperature, humidity, UV, chemicals or solvents, corrosive elements, abrasives, etc.
- What is the expected lifespan and usage cycle of the part? This can help determine the longevity and fatigue resistance of the thermoplastic.
- Are there any regulatory or safety standards that must be met? Consider industry-specific requirements such as FDA-approved materials for food and medical applications or UL requirements for electrical components.
- Do you have cost-effectiveness requirements? Compare material, manufacturing, and maintenance costs against the desired performance characteristics.
- Are there manufacturing constraints? Does your manufacturer have experience machining the material? Can they meet the required tolerances?
At Ensinger PolyTech, we specialize in machining engineering and high-performance thermoplastics. We have a deep understanding of how these materials react under different conditions. If you aren’t sure what material you need, we can help you choose the perfect plastic for your application. The materials we work with include:
Engineering and General
- Polycarbonate (PC)
- Polyvinylchloride (PVC)
- Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF)
- PE (UHMW/HDPE)
- Polyether ether ketone (PEEK)
- Polyamide-imide (PAI)
- Polyphenylene sulfide (PPS)
- Polyetherimide (PEI)
- Polyimide (PI)
- Poly-Texx HPVT, LE, CE, (thermoset Composites)
- G10 (a high-pressure fiberglass laminate), FR4 (glass-reinforced epoxy laminate)
- Ensinger TECATEC Line (thermoplastic PEEK composite)
Component Design and Design for Manufacturability Expertise
Component design must consider the final product’s form, fit, and function and design it for manufacturability. Poorly designed components can add unnecessary costs. Design for manufacturability (DFM) is a process for designing a part that considers the limits of manufacturing capabilities and how specific thermoplastics react during manufacturing. It can also be used to reduce costs and increase manufacturing efficiency.
While many companies have expertise in machining metal, they struggle with plastics because the concepts applied to metal do not transfer identically to plastics. One of the most complicated aspects companies have with machining plastics is understanding how to maintain tolerances and dimensions in various plastics.
Machining produces heat that can impact plastics. The coefficient of linear thermal expansion is much higher in plastics than in metals and can differ significantly between plastics. This measures how the part expands when heated or shrinks when cooled. The lower the number, the more dimensionally stable the material is. Designers must consider thermal expansion and tolerance management when designing the part – for both manufacturability and part functionality if it encounters temperature variations in use. Additionally, the part’s orientation may be critical depending on if the material is isotropic and grows/shrinks equally on all axis or anisotropic, and change is different for each axis. These must all be considered by the part designer.
Another consideration will be joining the components to make subassemblies when required. Welding and adhesives are two ways thermoplastics are joined for permanent solutions. Mechanical fasteners, threading, press fittings, and snap fits can be used when disassembly may be necessary.
At Ensinger PolyTech, our engineers have the experience and expertise to design a product that we can precisely machine and finish to meet your needs. Not only do we use design for manufacturability principles, but we can also conduct Finite Element Analysis (FEA). FEA, computer-aided engineering, allows us to analyze how your part will react under different conditions in use, such as vibration, heat, and other physical effects. We can also conduct tolerance capability studies to ensure we can consistently make your part to spec.
Prototyping Leads to Better Solutions
Testing your design in use through prototyping allows you to uncover challenges before going into full production. Prototyping can help ensure that parts fit together in an assembly and function as intended. Several prototypes, each modified slightly, may be required to find the best solution.
Once your part is designed and we create a technical 3D drawing, we can use 3D printing to create a prototype of your part. This gives you a tangible product to test form, fit, and function. Once you are happy with the prototype, we can produce small production quantities so that you can conduct field testing before moving into full production.
Ensinger PolyTech Delivering Precision Components
As part of the Ensinger Group network, our in-house engineering team can tap into our vast system to find the optimal solution. While we have long and extensive experience engineering machined components, working closely with our Ensinger family, we can also provide engineering solutions for injection molding if that is better suited to your application.
Through material selection and manufacturing techniques mastery, we will provide turnkey design and build projects. We use machining, assembly, and customized manufacturing machinery to take on any size project at reasonable costs. Everyone who touches your project has been chosen for the skills they bring and their desire to continue learning, contributing to your project’s success and allowing us to remain leaders in the engineering fabrication and machining industries.
Let’s build something great together! Contact us to get started.